Monday, July 07, 2008

Wireless Festival 08: Underworld, Fatboy Slim

Bjork has a great deal to answer for. For the first time ever, the Icelandic art-pixie is in my bad books (you listening, Bjork? Yes, I do mean you). Mere days before the Wild in the Country festival, due to take place in leafy Knebworth, Bjork pulled out, citing a lack of co-operation from the organisers. In rapid succession, more DJs, plus Battles, I band I've long wanted to see, followed suit. And then, on the Thursday before the weekend, the plug was finally pulled. Cue mass panic among our number: we were all geared up with nowhere to go. A plan B was needed, quick smart.

So, when V remembered almost immediately that the Wireless Festival was on in Hyde Park, featuring Bootsy Collins, MSTRKRFT, Booka Shade, Underworld and Fatboy Slim, our weekend was saved. Moreover, apart from the tantalizing prospect of seeing Bjork, there was some measure of relief that we weren’t going to have to troop up to Knebworth and troop back again.

Our day begins with a rendezvous in the leafy surrounds of Primrose Hill. M's mum is the famous folk singer Bonnie Dobson, author of the folk standard "Morning Dew", and her house is accordingly festooned with the artistic bric-a-brac of a lifetime: photos, postcards, trinkets and paintings. It's a great way to start the day — and wonderful knowing that this will be our retreat when we finally decide that it’s all a bit too hectic.

So we cab it over to Hyde Park, where we loiter by a tent where an instructor is given dance lessons — V is excited by the sounds of distant Groove Armada track. I can only hear a muffled throb. Good lord, has my hearing become that appalling? We catch up with M’s motley crew and head, after a chastening episode or two in the toilets, to the huge tent at the back of the field to catch the closing strains of MSTRKRFT. Their set of dark tech seems confuses me until I realise that I’d been confusing them with M Craft the whole time. But a set of hand-cranked lo-fi folk tunes would have got no-one in the mood for Underworld. It’s a good job we get to the tent early — they’ve stopped letting people into the tent, such is the crush. Good for the space; not so good for those of us who might want to use the toilet.

It’s very dark and very warm by the time Underworld come on. They are superb, Karl flailing like a lunatic who’s plugged himself into the mains just for kicks. “Two Months Off” is lethal, "Born Slippy" takes everyone to the mental place, especially when they release the giant balloons (at least I think that happened), "King of Snake" keeps them there, and "Jumbo" is a blissful way to end, the crowd drifting out for the start of Fatboy Slim... but what’s this? They’re back for a frenzied encore of "Moaner”, an overload of hyper-staccato synths and Karl's maniac rant, plus a frenzied strobe. It all helps create a sensory overload (M had to leave the tent, such was the claustrophobia in the tent) that we agree that Fatboy's gonna have a hard time beating.

Initial omens are not good. We're at the periphery of the crowd, where the beats are a little quiet and the sound is getting sucked hither and thither by the wind. We creep closer, looking for paths of lesser resistance. You'll forgive me if I don't remember a great deal about his song selection from this point, as I spent the next hour and a half grinning like loon. We’d seen Fatboy play the famous Beach Boutique II down in Brighton (along with, what, a quarter of a million others?), and that had been — OK. Most of my memory of that is taken up with finding it hard to dance on the sloping pebbles and then spending a small lifetime leaving the beach to the never-ending voice on the PA: “please make your way off the beach” etc.

But this time, Fatboy was truly amazingly good, spending the whole set grinning like the extraordinarily lucky man he is, resplendent in Hawaiian shirt and continually exhorting the crowd to give it up, which we were more than happy to do. The music got continually harder and deeper and harder and more technoid and then came up the other side with a kind of ecstatic techno I’ve never really heard before more ecstatic. There were super-deep versions of "Sunshine of Your Love" and "(I can't get no) Satisfaction", a frenzied "Block Rockin' Beats", aa cleansing "Jump Around" and then, right at the end, a soaring remix of Arcade Fire's "No Cars Go". The whole thing was like the sun coming out — which was odd because it was getting progressively cloudier. I read later that he played "Crazy in Love" — but I'll have to take that on trust. He also finished with “Praise You”, before leaving us, in true superstar style, wanting more, bereft that he’d finished so early. It wasn’t even 10:30.

After that — we braved the cold and the buses and made our way to The End for some Layo and Bushwacka, then headed back to our Primrose Hill base for a debrief. Sleep was a long time coming.

So a big thanks to that capital fellow, Fatboy Slim. Oh yes, and a belated thank you to Bjork as well...

[Any info about a track-listing most welcome]

1 comment:

shana_hills said...

It is a true testament to Lee's musical nuance that he's able to remember so much of the track list. Alas, I must have looked much like Fat Boy Slim - grinning like a loon but having the time of my life.

I'm not sitting and reliving the entire night as Lee plays track after track, saying "Remember this one? And this one??"... Yes, yes!!

Thank you Underworld. Thank you FBS. Thank you Lee, V and M for an absolutely brilliant night under the (cloudy) stars..